Celtics vs Knicks: MSG 7:30pm
UPDATE( RONDO OUT)
The longtime rivalry with the Boston Celtics will be renewed again tonight at MSG. The Knicks have not won a season series from Boston since 2003-2004, and the Celtics have been Atlantic Division champions every season since the 2007-2008 campaign. Today, the Knicks sit atop the Atlantic with a 5 game lead over the second place Nets and a 7 game lead over the 16-17 Boston Celtics. The Celtics have won two in a row and Avery Bradley has just returned healthy from injury. Bradley has helped improve their porous perimeter defense over the first 30 or so games of the year.
The Celtics are coming off two impressive victories over the currently #3 seeded Atlanta Hawks, 89-81 and the #4 seeded Indiana Pacers, 94-75. The Celtics have been turning up the defensive intensity; in the third quarter of the Hawks match-up, they held Atlanta to just 9 points in the entire quarter and held them to 41% shooting overall for the entire game. Against Indiana, they held the Pacers to just 51 points through the first three quarters of play and held them to 32% shooting from the field overall. Doc Rivers knows how to gear his teams up for the playoff run and with those impressive wins and sitting 7 games back, you know the Celtics will be ready to play tonight.
For the Knicks, since Rajon Rondo is out due to an NBA suspension, the Celtics cannot be allowed to get out in transition. Jason Kidd is going to have his hands full and I would like to see Ronnie Brewer matched up with Rajon’s back up at times in the half court and for the entire team to help stop them in transition. The Knicks must be ready for Paul Pierce looking to isolate and test Carmelo in the mid range game and coming off screens. I expect to see Kevin Garnett posting up Tyson Chandler and looking to create passes out of the post. The Knicks will start Marcus Camby and I hope to see more of the first quarter defense the Knicks showed against San Antonio as opposed to their messy and disappointing opening in Orlando. The Knicks looked like two completely different teams. They must be committed to cutting down on Boston’s points in the paint and containing Rondo.
Another interesting match-up will be the bench featuring JR Smith versus Jason Terry. The Celtics have been terrible at defending the three point line. They are 24th in the NBA defensively against the three and the Knicks are the 3rd best three point shooting team, so this should be a major New York advantage. Look for lots of open shots for Kidd, Smith, Novak and Prigioni, the Knicks must bury them and take the Celtics out early. Boston’s bench is not very deep and Jeff Green has been lackluster thus far, so the Knicks also have a bench advantage. The Celtics will start Bass, Garnett, Pierce, Bradley, and Rondo, with Jared Sullinger, Green, Terry, Courtney Lee and possibly Jason Collins off the bench. The Knicks will be without Rasheed Wallace once again as he is still day to day.
This game will be tough and the Knicks cannot underestimate the Celtics in any way. This is a key match-up for playoff positioning and Atlantic Division supremacy. The Celtics are just 3-4 vs. Atlantic Division foes, while the Knicks are 4-1. Despite this, the Celtics are prideful and the Knicks should be too. Here is their chance to prove it on the floor and extend their lead to 8 games. No Boston Wins in our HOUSE! GO NEW YORK!